Coldplay initially rejected Chu’s request, and the film’s studio Warner Bros. remained concerned that the song’s title and placement in the romantic comedy would be problematic (yellow is a derogatory term against Asians), but Chu wanted to use the song to reclaim the word. “We’re going to own that term,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “If we’re going to be called yellow, we’re going to make it beautiful.”
But Chu didn’t give up. Instead he wrote a personal letter to Coldplay members Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion explaining why he needed “Yellow” in Crazy Rich Asians. “[The word ‘yellow’] has always had a negative connotation in my life … until I heard your song,” he wrote.
“I remember seeing the music video in college for the first time on TRL,” Chu’s note continued. “That one shot with the sun rising was breathtaking for both my filmmaker and music-loving side. It immediately became an anthem for me and my friends and gave us a new sense of pride we never felt before.”
Chu follows Greta Gerwig’s lead in sending a snail mail request for licensing songs. The Lady Bird director had penned personal letters to Justin Timberlake, Dave Matthews Band and Alanis Morissette requesting the rights to “Cry Me a River,” “Crash Into Me” and “Hand In My Pocket,” respectively.
While Chu can’t say that his letter changed the band’s minds, within 24 hours of sending it, Coldplay approved the director’s request to use “Yellow” in the film.
In Crazy Rich Asians, a Mandarin cover of the track by University of Southern California freshman and The Voice Season 10 contestant Katherine Ho is used.
The film had a successful North American three-day debut, earning $25.2 million and a five-day opening raking in $34 million to top the weekend’s box office. Read the full letter from Chu here.